Read this cookbook: “Bianco: Pizza, Pasta, and Other Food I Like” by Chris Bianco (Ecco Books, $34.99)
By Wendell Brock
America’s artisan-pizza movement might not have happened if it weren’t for Chris Bianco.
In the beginning, he was just a kid from an Italian-American family in New York. He started crafting his thin-crust wonders in a Phoenix grocery store in 1988. Eventually, his Pizzeria Bianco became a pie mecca, and in 2003, he won a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest.
All this from a salty-talking guy who listens to his heart, uses the best ingredients he can get his hands on, and keeps it simple. Really simple.
With this book, the pizza master tells you how to make a perfect dough, then use that as the foundation for a classic Pizza Margherita, for focaccia, and for his original Pizza Rosa, “a pizza of restraint that delivers tenfold on its first bite.” (It’s made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, thin slices of red onion, a touch of rosemary and a small handful of crushed Arizona pistachios.)
He also finds timeless beauty in simple salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, big bowls and sweets.
Thumbing through this book makes me very hungry for lusty Italian cooking. I want Watermelon, Fennel, and Parsley Salad, a Meatball Hero, and Lemon Cookies. And that’s just for lunch, baby.
A photograph of Bianco’s beautiful mom holding her simple custard, a spoon in her hand, her black hair coiled in a bun on top her head, almost makes me sob, and his wise and humble words on cooking are profoundly soulful.
“When it’s perfect or close to it,” he writes of whatever it is you are trying to make, be it pizza, a Sunday-morning omelet or a grilled cheese, “recognize why, remember what you did and repeat it again and again until your children ask you to teach them to make it.”
Is there any greater compliment?
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).